The weakness of the US dollar against the euro boosted local industry exports to European Union countries 10 percent from last year's levels to $5.5 billion in the first six months of 2007. "The large increase in industry exports - not including diamonds - to the European Union can be explained mainly by the weakening of the dollar against the euro by 8% during this period," said Yehiel Assia, director of the Israel Export Institute. For the whole of 2007, expectations are that industry exports - not including diamonds - to the EU will increase by 11% to $10.5b. In 2006, industry exports to the EU, excluding diamonds, grew by 14%, amounting to $9.4b. A major part of the first half rise was an increase in exports to Holland and France, each of which contributed 20% of the increase. Exports to France rose by 21% compared with the same period last year to $556 million, while exports to Holland grew by 18% to $617m. Exports to Italy rose by 19% to $594m. and exports to the UK were up 15% amounting to $701m. in the first six months of this year. Exports to east European countries were also strong in the first half with deliveries to the Czech Republic rising 38% to $60m. while exports lifted by 28% to $61m. to Hungary; by 15% to $105m. to Romania; and by 215% to $35m. to Slovenia. On the other hand, exports to Germany fell 1% to $905m., exports to Portugal dropped 17% to $45m. and exports to Ireland fell by 8% to $56m. According to projections by the IEI, total exports of goods and services will grow by 12% in 2007 to $70b., of which $43b. are estimated to be generated from goods. Of that amount, industry exports excluding diamonds are forecasted to amount to $33b., an increase of 10% over the previous year. Trade and services work force rises Every third company in the trade and services sector increased its work force by 5 to 10 percent in the first half of 2007, according to a survey by the Federation of Israeli Chambers of Commerce. "The boost in employment volume across the trade and services sectors points to the continued growth trend and expansion of these sectors," said Uriel Lynn, president of the FICC. The survey, carried out by the FICC's economic division among a sample of 130 companies, showed that 36% of the trade and services sector companies increased their work force by 5 to 10% in the first six months of this year when compared with the same period last year, 54% reported no changes and only 10% reported firings during the period. Furthermore 49% of the surveyed companies reported that they were planning to recruit more workers in 2007.